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Trucking Country is a social history of long-haul trucking that explores the contentious politics of free-market capitalism in post-World War II America. Shane Hamilton paints an eye-opening portrait of the rural highways of the American heartland, and in doing so explains why working-class populist voters are drawn to conservative politicians who seemingly don't represent Trucking Country is a social history of long-haul trucking that explores the contentious politics of free-market capitalism in post-World War II America. Shane Hamilton paints an eye-opening portrait of the rural highways of the American heartland, and in doing so explains why working-class populist voters are drawn to conservative politicians who seemingly don't represent their financial interests. Hamilton challenges the popular notion of "red state" conservatism as a devil's bargain between culturally conservative rural workers and economically conservative demagogues in the Republican Party. The roots of rural conservatism, Hamilton demonstrates, took hold long before the culture wars and free-market fanaticism of the 1990s. As Hamilton shows, truckers helped build an economic order that brought low-priced consumer goods to a greater number of Americans. They piloted the big rigs that linked America's factory farms and agribusiness food processors to suburban supermarkets across the country. Trucking Country is the gripping account of truckers whose support of post-New Deal free enterprise was so virulent that it sparked violent highway blockades in the 1970s. It's the story of "bandit" drivers who inspired country songwriters and Hollywood filmmakers to celebrate the "last American cowboy," and of ordinary blue-collar workers who helped make possible the deregulatory policies of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and set the stage for Wal-Mart to become America's most powerful corporation in today's low-price, low-wage economy.


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Trucking Country is a social history of long-haul trucking that explores the contentious politics of free-market capitalism in post-World War II America. Shane Hamilton paints an eye-opening portrait of the rural highways of the American heartland, and in doing so explains why working-class populist voters are drawn to conservative politicians who seemingly don't represent Trucking Country is a social history of long-haul trucking that explores the contentious politics of free-market capitalism in post-World War II America. Shane Hamilton paints an eye-opening portrait of the rural highways of the American heartland, and in doing so explains why working-class populist voters are drawn to conservative politicians who seemingly don't represent their financial interests. Hamilton challenges the popular notion of "red state" conservatism as a devil's bargain between culturally conservative rural workers and economically conservative demagogues in the Republican Party. The roots of rural conservatism, Hamilton demonstrates, took hold long before the culture wars and free-market fanaticism of the 1990s. As Hamilton shows, truckers helped build an economic order that brought low-priced consumer goods to a greater number of Americans. They piloted the big rigs that linked America's factory farms and agribusiness food processors to suburban supermarkets across the country. Trucking Country is the gripping account of truckers whose support of post-New Deal free enterprise was so virulent that it sparked violent highway blockades in the 1970s. It's the story of "bandit" drivers who inspired country songwriters and Hollywood filmmakers to celebrate the "last American cowboy," and of ordinary blue-collar workers who helped make possible the deregulatory policies of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and set the stage for Wal-Mart to become America's most powerful corporation in today's low-price, low-wage economy.

30 review for Trucking Country: The Road to America's Wal-Mart Economy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    It's interesting that so much of Shane Hamilton's book chooses to focus on the political aspects of the birth of the trucking industry in America rather than the cultures into which the industry intervened--because the latter seems to be a far more interesting story. Essentially by situating his history in the period between the Great Depression and the Reagan era, he makes it a story of regulation and industry rather than a story of rural history, EVEN THOUGH so much of what seemed to make truc It's interesting that so much of Shane Hamilton's book chooses to focus on the political aspects of the birth of the trucking industry in America rather than the cultures into which the industry intervened--because the latter seems to be a far more interesting story. Essentially by situating his history in the period between the Great Depression and the Reagan era, he makes it a story of regulation and industry rather than a story of rural history, EVEN THOUGH so much of what seemed to make trucking a valuable industry to the (predominately white) men who worked within it was its important connections to the culture of farming and rural life. Trucking of agricultural products emerged as a feisty contender against the monolithic power of the railroads and their preexisting connections with meatpackers and dairies across the U.S.. The railroad's relationship to these producers, and thus the subsequent prices of meat and milk, were governed by the geographies of the rails, dairies, stockyards, and storefronts, and as such access and pricing of these key products varied tremendously depending on their presence in cities vs. countryside. Meanwhile farmers bore the brunt of the subsequent price surges and drops, and moreover bore the challenges of agricultural price management as emerging from the New Deal and the AAA. Trucking changed that by allowing meat and milk (and other farm products) to be shipped more quickly, to alternative routes over the road rather than the rail, directly to the stores, and in formats ("boxed meat" aka in cuts, and milk in cartons rather than bottles) that were much more shelf and transit stable, and as a result often more affordable and at a much quicker rate of supply and demand.) Perhaps most importantly, the relationship between truckers and farmers was an intimate one, because so many truckers had been farmers or sons-of-farmers looking for a new and more lucrative employment that would take them off the farm, but not entirely out of the country. This last part of the story seems the most interesting to me, because it suggests the greatest form of cultural resonance for why truckers felt close connections to "country life" even as they themselves were extensions of big industry. (Hamilton's content on the birth of country music as the trucker's anthem is particularly interesting.) But because Hamilton is much more interested in how this form of industry translated to politics--as a push against regulation, an antistatist and pro-free market endeavor while also being anti-union--what subsequently results in this book is the story of trucking as an industry that changed America with little to no direct content from truckers themselves. Did they see themselves as part of an agrarian economy? How did they feel about their days on the road? What relationship did they have to the product they carried? This book, so dense with politics and economic arguments, left me cold as to the real genesis of the trucking culture that has informed so much of modern rural life.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jen Well-Steered

    This was just weird. You see the title and you're expecting something about Wal-Mart and trucking, right? And yet this is more of a history of the development of the trucking industry between the 1930s and the 1980s, with really nothing about the past 30 years. Possibly riveting to specialist historians or sociologists, but not much that appeals to the non-supernerd.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Terrazas

    Deep, deep in the weeds. But fascinating if you care about the weeds.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Frank Stein

    Luckily the book was not at all as polemical as I worried it would be. The book is mainly a detailed, though often sloppily written, account of interrelations between the meat, milk, and trucking industries in the years since the 1935 Motor Carrier Act, which subjected interstate trucking to regulation under the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). Unbeknownst to most, however, the act contained Section 203(b), the "Agricultural Exemption," which allowed independent truckers moving agricultural Luckily the book was not at all as polemical as I worried it would be. The book is mainly a detailed, though often sloppily written, account of interrelations between the meat, milk, and trucking industries in the years since the 1935 Motor Carrier Act, which subjected interstate trucking to regulation under the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). Unbeknownst to most, however, the act contained Section 203(b), the "Agricultural Exemption," which allowed independent truckers moving agricultural produce to escape inspection by the ICC. Throughout the next 50 years, "agricultural" trucking would form a large majority of the total trucking of America, which Hamilton argues created a permanent political base (and a successful example) for free-market trucking that culminated in the passage of the deregulatory 1980 Motor Carrier Act by President Carter and Senator Ted Kennedy. The truly interesting parts of Hamilton's story are the intricate details of the history of the trucking and food industries. For instance, urban "milkmen" were already on their way out with the rise of refrigeration in the 1920s and 30s, but New Deal "Milk Marketing Orders" after 1933 raised the price of fresh milk, which many distribution companies then passed on to consumers through subsidizing home delivery service. This system was undermined, however, by the revolutionary invention of the paper milk carton, which supplanted breakable class bottles and allowed milk distributors in the 1950s to expand their range and deliver milk directly to a wide variety of supermarkets in bulk. The supermarkets then often underpriced milk as a "loss leader" to attract shoppers in once a week, making the milkmen's home delivery prices look downright extortionate. The Teamsters, who organized many of the white-coated milkmen, staged protests like blocking supermarket aisles and striking to prevent reduction of milkmen routes, but the ease of supermarket purchase proved too much in the end, and the milkman went the way of the dodo. The book is filled with similar strident political battles that, though forgotten today, were definitely central in shaping the politics and economy of 20th century America.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jason S

    important book- non-union trucking to break down new deal regulations on food industry (dairy, meat) key to shaping anti-government feeling in rural America in present

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

  7. 5 out of 5

    Finn Jørgensen

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chris Bohner

  9. 5 out of 5

    Erin

  10. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Crowley

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amber Nickell

  12. 4 out of 5

    Zach Slaton

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael Taylor

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cait

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hui Wen

  16. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Castaneda

  17. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rock

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amelia Franklin

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ben

  21. 4 out of 5

    Will Connelly

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jason O'brien

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katie Jones

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hans Jonasson

  25. 4 out of 5

    Henry Kellison

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alice Lemon

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kayla

  28. 5 out of 5

    Isabel

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Rutherford

  30. 5 out of 5

    Emma

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